NSF awards $2.25M for Semiconductor and Nanotechnology Education Center

(Nanowerk News) SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) announced it has been selected to receive $2.25 million in federal funding by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the continuation and significant expansion of the Northeast Advanced Technology Education Center (NEATEC). Based at SUNY Poly and led by Professor of Nanoscale Science Dr. Robert Geer, NEATEC will develop and implement credit-bearing high-tech education and training programs over the next three years in support of the region’s advanced semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem. This funding will also support advanced technological education programs serving underserved and underrepresented populations, especially in Central New York, to help meet the workforce needs of the region’s high-tech industries.
“On behalf of SUNY Poly, I am proud to congratulate Professor Robert Geer on receiving this important grant to spearhead efforts to provide the critical skills to those who might otherwise be left out of our region’s advanced manufacturing economy. SUNY Poly is thrilled to lead this initiative across New York State and the northeast U.S.,” said SUNY Poly Interim President Dr. Bahgat Sammakia. “We are grateful that NSF has selected SUNY Poly to lead this important program that will strengthen our partnerships with the region’s community colleges and leverage SUNY Poly’s outstanding educational and research capabilities to provide critical technical skills that will allow people to access promising careers in advanced manufacturing—access that can help uplift entire communities.”
“This grant is a wonderful reflection on the hands-on, innovation-centered learning experiences that are the hallmark of SUNY Poly. It will provide critical educational opportunities enabling individuals from many backgrounds to pursue employment in advanced technology-based corporations across New York State and the northeast U.S.,” said SUNY Poly Provost Dr. William Durgin. “And, by specifically reaching out to veterans, at-risk youth, and refugees, this growing program will make a powerful impact on many of our underserved communities.”
The NSF funding awarded to SUNY Poly will lead to a transformational expansion of NEATEC’s academic program development, centered at SUNY Poly’s Albany and Utica campuses, and will include the creation of a number of “stackable” credit-bearing technology-focused academic certificate programs for a wide range of industries related to semiconductors including power electronics, integrated photonics, silicon photovoltaics, and advanced LED lighting technology. It will likewise support expanded experiential learning opportunities with industrial partners and expanded community college and technical high-school partnerships, including critical academic developmental partnerships with Mohawk Valley Community College, Onondaga Community College, and Fulton-Montgomery Community College, as well as Fairfield University in Connecticut, among others.
As part of the funding, the NEATEC Technology Training Center (NTTC) will be established in Albany as a region-wide NSF Advanced Technological Education ‘user’ facility to train community college faculty in the delivery of NEATEC-developed curricula. This will include ‘hands-on’ educational components incorporating advanced mechatronics systems, an advanced vacuum and plasma-processing teaching toolset, and an integrated photonics test and quality control evaluation system.
“I am honored that the National Science Foundation awarded this grant to SUNY Poly and our partners to continue and dramatically expand NEATEC. By supporting the development of exciting new technological education and training modules in nanotechnology and advanced semiconductor manufacturing, SUNY Poly and our key partners at Mohawk Valley Community College, Onondaga Community College, and Fulton Montgomery Community College will be able to deploy exciting new programs for addressing the workforce needs of leading innovation-based companies across New York State and the northeast U.S. so that our dramatic expansion of high-tech manufacturing remains robust, with opportunities for all,” said SUNY Poly Professor of Nanoscale Science Dr. Robert Geer. “This grant will allow students and those seeking new career opportunities to gain cutting-edge nanotechnology-focused skills and give them access to new career pathways in advanced manufacturing. As importantly, it will support targeted programs to assist refugees, veterans, and at-risk youth to enter our nation’s innovation economy and put them on a path to success. We are thankful for our academic and corporate partners who have all come together to power this unique program.”
Randall VanWagoner, Ph.D., Mohawk Valley Community College President, said, “MVCC is thrilled to continue our dynamic partnership with SUNY Poly in such a critical area of economic development for Upstate New York.”
“Onondaga Community College is pleased to partner with SUNY Polytechnic on this program grant through the National Science Foundation Advanced Technology Education program,” said Onondaga Community College President Casey Crabill, Ed.D. “With the leadership of Dr. Art Peterson, chair of Applied Engineering Technology Department at OCC, we will work with SUNY Poly and industry representatives to develop curriculum and student engagement and applied learning opportunities to support semiconductor-derivative industries, including photovoltaic manufacturing, LED-lighting manufacturing, power-electronics manufacturing, and integrated photonics manufacturing. The incorporation of these cutting-edge technologies into OCC’s applied engineering degree programs will support our graduates’ direct entry into high-demand careers in advanced manufacturing or transfer to high-tech bachelor’s degree programs at four-year institutions.”
“We at Fulton-Montgomery Community College are delighted to be working with the faculty from SUNY Polytechnic Institute on this National Science Foundation Grant,” said Dr. Dustin Swanger, Fulton-Montgomery Community College President. “Efforts like these demonstrate how the SUNY system colleges can collaborate for the benefit of students at community colleges and state-operated campuses. Equally as important is that these types of programs often go beyond the reach of SUNY and advance science and technology education within local school districts. This is truly a win for our campuses and New York State.”
Under this NSF grant NEATEC – an NSF ATE Regional Center for Semiconductor & Nanotechnology Education – will develop new online and experiential technological education programs in partnership with regional community colleges and universities to support advanced technological education for students in the northeast U.S. Targeted programs will also be developed for newly separated veterans, international refugee communities in Central New York, and at-risk students in our region’s high schools to help them acquire the technical skills that are in demand across New York State and the northeast U.S. More specifically, for two and four year colleges, NEATEC will develop adaptable certificate programs for power electronics manufacturing (PEM), photovoltaic manufacturing (PVM), and LED lighting manufacturing (LEDLM) while expanding its integrated photonics manufacturing (IPM) certificate program and developing advanced modules for technician credentialing.
In addition, and complementing the technology education programs, corporate partnerships will provide educational opportunities to those in the program and include anchor industry collaborators SolarCity, Soraa, AIM Photonics, United Technologies Research Center, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), GlobalFoundries, Tokyo Electron, and General Electric. Key partnerships have also been formed with veteran, community support, and high school education organizations, including the Fort Drum TAP Office, Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, the Midtown Utica Community Center, and three New York State Technical High School (P-TECH) sites in order to reach key groups of people who can then choose to take part in the program.
Demand for technical skills has increased across the region, and NEATEC is focused on preparing the required workforce for the estimated 500 technician and engineer jobs that are expected as SolarCity ramps up its new PV gigafactory in Buffalo, New York. Another 400 technicians and engineers are estimated to be needed by Soraa for their LED lighting manufacturing site in Syracuse, New York. In addition, hundreds of technicians are estimated to be needed to support the manufacturing of more robust silicon carbide-based power electronics through the New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium (NY-PEMC), led by SUNY Poly and General Electric, in Albany and Utica, New York, and to support and expand the U.S. government’s AIM Photonics consortium, based in Albany and Rochester, New York, led by SUNY Poly.
NEATEC was established in 2010 through the NSF Advanced Technology Education (ATE) Program, which established regional centers designed to provide targeted educational programs. As part of that initiative, NEATEC has offered internships, workshops, and nanotechnology-focused skills training to enable pathways to advanced education, followed by matching the next-generation workforce with innovation-based careers related to silicon wafer processing, compound semiconductor wafer processing, or silicon polycrystalline film processing and broader manufacturing in New York State and Western New England.
With an emphasis on two-year colleges, the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program focuses on the education of technicians for the high-tech career fields that drive the U.S. economy. The program involves partnerships between academic institutions and industry to promote improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary school levels, and focuses on providing opportunities for minorities and other groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.
Source: By Steve Ference, SUNY Polytechnic Institute